“Seeing Danger,” June 28, 2022

My mother tried to teach me to see danger. Even the kind you can’t see until it’s too late.

“You have to watch for it,” she’d say. “Pay attention and try to use the sense God gave you!”

I remember an autumn when the trees were ablaze with color.

“Look, Mama,” I said, “aren’t those trees just beautiful?”

“If I had my way,” she said, “I’d cut ‘em all down. I’m scared they’ll fall on this house!”

She saw danger everywhere. I saw my share of it. But mostly, I saw what fear did to her. How it kept her from enjoying life. How it locked her up in a prison of her own making. And how, if I let it, it would lock me up, too.

My mother meant well. But I was young, full of myself and thought I’d live forever. I tried my best to be fearless.

My fearless days ended when my first child was born. After my third, I could see danger everywhere. Even the kind you can’t see until it’s too late.

My main mission in life (along with cooking, cleaning and trying to stay sane) was simple: I had to keep my children safe.

I tried to teach them to see danger. Look before crossing the street. Never run with scissors. If you fall off the roof, just remember on the way down I told you not to go up there.

But far more than danger, I taught them to see beauty, to feel joy and live life to its fullest. I never wanted them to be a prisoner of fear. I just wanted them to be safe and stay alive.

I meant well. But they were young, full of themselves and thought they’d live forever. They tried their best to be fearless.

Somehow, by the grace of God, they survived. They are now responsible, caring adults with children of their own. I never worry about my grandchildren. Their parents are teaching them a perfect balance of freedom and safety. If there are dangers, they see them long before I do.

When my kids were small, their favorite beach was Lovers Point, a sandy cove a short mile from our home in Pacific Grove, on California’s rocky coast.

The water is cold, below 65 degrees, but it’s a bit sheltered from the wind and the waves lap more than crash. We didn’t own wet suits, so the kids mostly waded in the surf and built castles in the sand.

It’s now the favorite beach of four of my grandkids, ages 7 to 11, who live nearby. They often swim there in wetsuits, while their mothers sit on blankets, as I once did, watching over their babes like ducks on June bugs.

On a recent day, they planned to meet friends at the beach but cancelled at the last minute.

That morning, a man who was swimming just off shore was attacked by what officials said was a 20-foot great white shark.

Several people _ including a police officer and a nurse, who were in town to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and a surfing instructor who was teaching a class _ heard the man’s screams and paddled out to pull him to shore. He was taken to a trauma center with massive injuries. But thanks to those who saw the danger, and yet risked their lives to save him, he is expected to survive.

Meanwhile, children who had been in the water stood dripping on shore watching the dramatic rescue. Who knows what they will take from that experience?

Life is not one thing, but many: Joy, heartache, heroes and villains, bravery and fear, danger and deliverance. In the same way we teach children to avoid what may harm them, we need to teach them to embrace what will heal them _ what will build them up, make them whole and give them peace.

That story is not just about a shark attack. It’s about bravery, compassion, kindness, survival and good people who faced danger to do the right thing.

If those children (and others like my grandchildren who weren’t there, but will hear about it) remember anything about that day, I hope they’ll remember the heroes. And soon, whenever they are ready, I hope they’ll get back in the water.


  1. John Rhoads says

    The world would be a much better place if we had about 2 billions mothers like SR, imho.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Literally heard about that attack an hour ago… one of the boys just took up surfing and told us all about it. Scary. But the folks who ran TOWARD danger… those are the ones who give me hope.

  3. Victoria Alldrin says

    Funny you were talking about fear from your mother. My mother was the same way! Like you I did not want my child afraid of everything! Just to be aware of his surroundings. Also to think about what you are doing.
    Thanks for reminding me about the beauty that surrounds us!


  4. Mary Edmonds says

    Now we know why your column remains a favorite. You are so talented and we learn so much. Thanks for the reminders of the blessings of life.

  5. Deb Weisgerber says

    We thought of you that day—June 22 when we were at Lovers Point—visiting from Ohio. We were taking our yearly walk around Monterey Bay and kept commenting that it was the warmest, most beautiful day we had ever experienced there. And we remembered that you introduced us to that beach many years ago, and telling us the full name “Lovers of Jesus Point”. Word of the shark attack quickly spread that morning as the peaceful Bay became an array of emergency vehicles and personnel. So thankful for those who risked their lives to help rescue the man…”Lovers of Jesus” sharing their love and compassion! And thanks to you for reminding us of those important life lessons.

  6. Linda T. says

    I thought of you and your family as soon as I heard the story of the shark attack. I was praying that no one in your family was there, so it’s good to hear that your family members decided not to go to the beach that day. I am thankful for the helpers who were in place to help the injured man get to shore. Yes, there are dangers, but there are also many helpers in our world! Let’s all be helpers!

  7. Wow! What a story! Life is full of lots to fear, but a healthy emotional balance is key. Thankful for those present to save the man’s life. Sure would be memorable to all involved. Ocean is beautiful, but pools are nicer without sharks. Still have to be careful and watchful around pools, though. Can’t live in fear, but use the good minds God gave us…like you mom said.

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